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There Are No Sidelines

Post #1493 • January 11, 2012, 8:16 AM • 1 Comment

[Image: Figure Drawing for All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis]

Figure Drawing for All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis

From Figure Drawing for All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis, 1943, newly republished by Titan Books:

The term "talent" needs clarifying. To any man who has slaved to acquire skill in his art, it is most irritating to have his ability referred to as a "gift." Perhaps there is one genius in a hundred years or more who can achieve perfection by "divine inspiration." I have never met such a man, and I do not know any successful artist who did not get there by the sweat of his brow. Again, I do not know of a single successful artist who does not continue to work hard. There is no formula in art that will not break down as soon as the effort behind it ceases. But, to compensate, there is no reward on earth that can compare with a pat on the back for a hard job well done. Talent, in its underclothes, is a capacity for a certain kind of learning. Talent is an urge, an insatiable desire to excel, coupled with indefatigable powers of concentration and production. Talent and ability are like sunlight and a truck garden. The sun must be there to begin with, but, added to it, there must be plowing, planting, weeding, hoeing, destroying of parasites—all have to be done before your garden will yield produce. According to those one-inch ads we see so often, you can be an artist, play the piano, write a book, be compelling, convince anybody, make friends, and get a high-salaried job if you'll just sit down and answer it—and, of course, "kick in."

If you want to draw, if you want to gamble all your chips for stakes that are really worth while, you have an excellent chance of winning. If you just dabble, you will certainly lose your ante, for the others in the game are playing their hands for all they are worth. I have met students who have said they would like to learn drawing as a "sideline." There are no sidelines. You are either in the game or out of it. "Well, then, how do I know I'm going to be good enough to make a go of it?" No one can possibly be assured that he is going to be good enough at anything to make a go of it. Faith in yourself and industry are all that any of us have got to go on.

An honest book on drawing can only point the way and suggest procedure. A book of downright promise can be nothing but downright fake. It is natural for young men and women to look for the "secrets" that allegedly assure success. It is even reasonable to feel that these secrets are somewhere hidden away, and that to reveal them would assure success. I confess I thought so myself at one time. But there are no such secrets, jealously guarded by the older generation so that it need not give way to the younger. There is not a craft in all the world that opens its doors so wide to the young and lays its knowledge so freely at its feet. ... If there is a secret, it is only in your individual expression.

Comment

1.

Walter Darby Bannard

January 11, 2012, 4:50 PM

This caught me by surprise. My first thought was that it was both odd and courageous to publish a drawing book with a pure 1930s Art Deco cover. The second impression was that the text was startlingly positive, upbeat, personal, nontechnical, guilelessly enthusiastic and completely out of sync with our irony-sodden, cynical, relativistic art climate.

Only then did I notice the original date of publication. Comes the dawn!

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